When most people talk about the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), they mean the Camino Francés, a route that leads walkers, cyclists and others across northern Spain, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, on the French side of the border, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where the Apostle Saint James (Santiago) is said to be buried.
The modern Camino Francés more or less follows a medieval pilgrimage route across Spain to Santiago. Over the last few decades it’s grown popular with people who, like their medieval counterparts, walk it for a variety of reasons—religious, spiritual, sport, historical or cultural, or for another reason entirely.
There are a lot of refugios or pilgrim refuges with dorm accommodation along the route, and it’s relatively easy to find food and drink along the way.
But the Camino de Santiago is more than just the Camino Francés. It’s a network of routes across Europe that lead to Santiago de Compostela. The most developed routes are in Spain and France, but historic routes—some of which you can still follow today—start as far away as Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
And in fact, on a metaphorical level, you could say any way you use to get to Santiago—on foot or by bike, by car, boat, airplane or train—is a Camino de Santiago. As the poet Antonio Machado wrote, “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.”
Traveller, there is no road; the way is made by walking.
Learn more about the Camino de Santiago
If you’re interested in walking the route, the Confraternity of Saint James is a great place to start. It has a lot of practical information, route overviews, and articles on the history of the Camino.
A Squidoo page I wrote on the Camino de Santiago has a bit of information on the history of the route, and also gives a brief overview of many of the routes in Spain and France.